Meet September's Brave Healer of the Month!
Jen Anderson, LPCi, CDWF
Counselor & Happiness Alchemist
Have you ever come across someone's website and felt immediately at home? Have you ever lost yourself in their content and thought, "Wow. This woman is awesome!"? That's how I felt when I first met Jen online a few months ago...
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern (LPCi) who practices in Portland. She teaches her clients that “Good things come to those who dare”, and is herself a living, breathing testament to that motto.
I met Jen through a web design course, and though we'd never met in person (or even spoken on the phone), I felt immediately drawn to her based solely on the word magic she made with her posts in our class forum.
Jen was taking the class to design a website for her newly branded practice, Daring Happiness. When she finally launched DaringHappiness.com, I fell in "branding love": her copy and content are so unique to her, any visitor could come to her site and immediately get a sense of who she is as a healer, and exactly what it would feel like to work with her.
Her authenticity was magnetic, and I had this hunch that she would be unstoppable. And, boyohboy, was I right...
This summer she achieved an amazing milestone in her life and work:
Just one year after graduating from school, Jen already holds a completely full practice!
Her business is self-sustaining, she’s in love with her clients, and now she’s just starting to create online programs to serve even more people. So many new people are flocking to her already full group programs, and she doesn’t want to turn them away anymore!
I chatted with Jen this month to get a behind-the-scenes peek into a Brave Healer’s business that I truly admire. In the interview below Jen shares:
- the proudest moments of her first impressive year in business.
- the scariest moments of her first year in business.
- how she attracted enough full-paying ideal clients to fill her practice.
- what it’s like to be an introvert and a therapist.
- her affirmation for all the Brave Healers out there (like you.)
Nicole Bonsol: What part of last year’s journey to a full practice are you most proud of?
Jen Anderson: A part of me is really proud of my business savvy and all that I’ve learned through B-School. (Writer’s note: “B-School” is an online business coaching program founded by Marie Forleo.) I know I’m doing a lot of stuff that most therapists don’t do, like marketing and other business stuff, so I’m proud of myself for thinking outside the box and doing it a little bit differently.
But mostly, I’m just proud of my self-growth as a therapist in the last year. I’m way different with my clients now than I was a year ago—and even from a year before that. I know that it’s something that’ll keep happening: I’m going to keep getting more grounded in who I am as a therapist, what my skills are, and what my gifts are. I feel really blessed for that.
NB: Why did you want to start a private practice in the first place?
JA: Well…I don’t really like working for people (Jen laughs). I’m sort of independent that way.
Since I’ve never had my own business before I was a little like “What am I getting myself into?” I thought about working for a community mental health agency, but I had an internship at a community agency. While the work was great I just knew, “There’s no way.”
I could never deal with all of the bureaucracy that goes along with it. There’s so much ridiculous paperwork, there were so many things to have to do…I just needed to be in control of everything. I just want to go in and see my clients when I want to see them. I just don’t wanna have to deal with all this stuff.
I just always wanted to have my own space, be my own boss, set my own schedule. I’m glad had that internship experience to just make sure.
NB: What was the hardest thing about filling your practice?
JA: Well, I have a tendency to not have great boundaries with clients, like not saying no and trying to fit people in whenever I can, working too late, or working too many hours without breaks. I’m working on self-care with my therapist and my supervisor.
I didn’t expect this to be a challenge. When I was in school I had this vision of “I’m going to be seeing 30 clients a week!” And everybody was like, “That’s not realistic”. But I thought, “Oh you just don’t know me”. And I didn’t really consider that one client hour in therapy is equal to more hours at an office job. It’s such an energy thing, especially for an introvert. I wasn’t really quite prepared for how exhausting it is. Even though I love it, it’s really draining.
NB: Yeah, cause you have to be present for that whole hour.
JA: Yeah, REALLY present. Like I can’t be on Facebook like, “Keep talking I’m just gonna check my messages.” (Laughs)
And I have to be really grounded. I want to be able to be really there for the person. And sometimes I’ll think I’m fine, then I’ll schedule two full days of clients and find myself wondering “Oh my gosh why am I so angry, or why am I exhausted and emotional.”
Sometimes I’m not valuing the amount of energy I actually give out. You think, "Oh I’m just listening", or we’re having a really good time and I don’t think of it as work.
NB: Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?
JA: Just the self-care piece again. Just trusting the process.
I’m also still struggling with wanting to fix people. It’s just a subtle energy…but “fixing people” is not my job.
I have a magic wand in my office just for this reason. I like to point it out to clients and say, “I wish I could fix all your problems. For one thing you would be really happy and I would be really rich, (laughs) but I can’t.” It’s a nice way to be able to remind clients that that’s actually not my job. They have to be able to do it for themselves.
I’m the guide, the catalyst, the mirror, the facilitator. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself of that on a daily basis, and I really wish that I would have gotten that earlier.
NB: What scared you about starting a private practice?
JA: I had been scared of working with clients who are suicidal, but that isn’t who I’m attracting over all. I’ve had clients in crisis, and teens where I have to deal with the legalities of working with a minor. All the different rules scare me, and I’m afraid I’m going to break one without even realizing it.
And every time I get a new client I get really nervous about it being the right fit. Meeting new people as an introvert is so challenging in and of itself (laughs).
NB: So you mentioned the people you’re not attracting.
Are you attracting the people that you do want to work with? How’s that going?
JA: Yeah, the biggest builder of my private practice has been the Brené Brown training I did, The Daring Way™. I fantasized that it would be amazing but didn’t really think that it would make such a huge impact on my business, but the the training—and being listed on Brene’s Brown’s website—has done me so well. That’s where I’m getting my full-paying clients. That’s where I’ve been getting my organic leads. Truly. Just someone finding me and being like “Yes. I wanna work with her.”
NB: So what are your clients like?
JA: Well, they’re not the age I would have thought. They’re all in their 40s, 50s, 60s. Before I did The Daring Way™ training I was attracting women in their late 20s, early 30s. But now I’m attracting this whole group of women that really wants to work on their shame and on their vulnerability, to understand how it’s operating in their lives.
It’s exciting because with these older women I’ve made the assumption that they’re not gonna wanna work with me. They’re not gonna wanna work with the crazy tattooed girl, but apparently they do wanna work with me!
NB: Why do you think your clients are so drawn to you?
JA: I think there’s something in my authenticity and my vulnerability that draws them in. I even had a new client tell me the other day, “I looked at tons of websites, and of course I was intrigued by you, but what really got me was that your About Page and your copy on your site. There was nothing about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or “This is why psychotherapy is good for you”. I just felt like everybody’s site was the same and I was just reading the same things over and over again, and when I looked at yours it was just totally different.”
NB: That’s so cool!
JA: Thanks! Part of me knows what it is, and part of me has no idea. I think I’m a fairly authentic person and maybe that’s rare in the therapy world. Not that therapists aren’t being themselves, but maybe they’re afraid of really letting themselves show because somehow it’s “unprofessional”. I just don’t believe that. I mean, what I would want in a therapist is them being themselves, more than anything. Because that’s going to remind me that I can do the same.
And that’s what I’m going on. I’m flying by the seat of my pants and going with it!
NB: Well, it seems to be working.
JA: It does seem to be working!
NB: I love meeting all these therapists that are really focused on their humanity, and their vulnerability, and their potential fallibility.
Because so many people assume you have to be…the opposite of those things. Like, detached. And the families I’ve worked with don’t like that. People don’t like that. It makes them feel like…a mental patient.
JA: Right? One of my goal’s while I’m alive and on this planet…if I can just reduce some of the stigma on mental illness and some of the stigma on therapy, I would be a really happy person. I think I’m already doing some of that, but that is very very fulfilling for me. I’ve been in therapy on and off for 12 years of my life and I’ve never been ashamed of it. I’ve always told people, and they’re always like (in a whisper) “What? You’re in therapy?”
Now I’m grateful for the opportunity to work against stigma in the field, from the inside.
NB: I’m so glad what you’re doing is working because sometimes I wonder “will this [Writing Brave, being authentic] stuff work in therapy world, or will people be like, “No, this is weird. This is too much.”
JA: Yeah, it really is working! And, like you, when I see other therapists—when I come across other sites where therapists are being themselves and doing something different I always send them an email to say, “Hey, I just wanted to know you’re awesome. We’re in this together. Thank you for being one of the front line of changing this in our field.” I just really appreciate it.
NB: What do you think your bravest moment has been in the last year?
JA: When I first leased my office space last summer, it was a really, really small office. Just tiny. And it was only for 3 days a week, but it was OK at the time because I was just starting out.
The office was in this really cool space, a collaborative of therapists in Portland. In general, it’s really hard to get into the space. I had a year lease and I told myself, “OK when the lease is up, or if sometime sooner a larger office opens up, I need to snag it and I need to go full-time.” I thought it would probably happen in the Spring or close to when my year lease was up, and I thought, “I’ll figure it out”.
Well, a space actually opened up in September. I took a big leap: I doubled my rent and I went into a full-time office space without having full-time clients at all. But, I was in this place where I only had an office on certain days and I couldn’t schedule enough clients. I needed more days to grow my practice…
That was really brave, but I’m really glad I did it because if I was still stuck in that small office I wouldn’t have half the clients I have right now…because it just wouldn’t have worked. So that was huge.
NB: What made you do it?
JA: I’m a person that just takes really big leaps and trusts that the net will appear. And if it doesn’t, I just know I will learn from it and I don’t regret it. I really believe in no regrets. I just trust that it will work out fine.
It was a little precarious for the first couple months, I won’t lie…I was making, like, $10 over my rent each month. And my supervisor was like, “Really, are you ready?” And I said, “No, but…are you ever ready?”
NB: One last question: What advice do you have for the other Brave Healers out there?
JA: I would just say that…just trust that you are enough. That you being your full self is enough for your clients. Whatever skill that you have, whatever healing modality that you do is wonderful. The training is really important, but YOU are actually the channel.
I don’t know if that makes sense…You know when you get into that mode of thinking where you’re not enough, you’re not ready to do the work yet? That you need more training, or you need to do more of this, yada yada yada…but you are ready and you are enough. Your presence and just holding space for somebody is really, really healing.
And I would say…just go for it! Go for it wherever you can.
NB: I love it…Thank you so much, Jen!
JA: Thank you for the opportunity!
NB: It really is a pleasure. I’m just jazzed to be able to celebrate the Brave Healers out there like you who show that being vulnerable and authentic, being yourself in your business actually works. Thank you!
Now, dear reader, I want to hear from you...
What can we learn from this month's Brave Healer?
I have a few questions below to get your practice-building neurons firing!
- Jen's tagline ("Good things come to those who dare") immediately gives you a sense of what she's about as a therapist. Do you have a tagline on your website? If so, share it below! If not, what do you want it to be?
- You attract prospective clients by giving them a taste of how amazing it would be to work with you. What are some of the things you're already doing online to show off your values and your unique personality as a healer? Or what are some things you want to start doing soon? (Edit your copy to sound even more like you? Take inviting photos of your office and post them on your website? Post your favorite healing quotes on Instagram?)
- Are you a Brave Healer that would like to be featured in an upcoming article? (Or do you want to nominate someone who inspires you?) Comment below or send me a private message to let me know!
To writing and living brave,